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16 July 2008


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We picked up a tip years ago from a wonderful couple we lived next too before we had children (they did).

They always had their children refer to us as Mr. Steve and Mrs. Olga.

We thought it was just formal enough to be respectful, but informal enough to not get arguments from adults who just 'insist' that they be called by their first name.

We adopted it when we had children and it's worked out pretty well. The kids always address adults with a Mr. or Mrs. in front, and we've not run across any protests either way.



That's the way it's commonly handled in the South--everyone is Miss __ and Mr. _____. (Insert first name).

This is a hard one to navigate.

I was raised in a Pentecostal church (Dad is a pastor, long before my conversion to Catholicism) and everyone at church went by Brother Smith and Sister Jones. So, Church people were always Brother and Sister to me.



I'm going to have to comment here and on Margaret's blog!! I dislike the formal titles. I am not formal. I do not like it. It's just not natural I guess. I always worry about trying to remember the people's last names (sometimes it is hard enough to remember the first name!) And, I live in Stearns County, there are a lot of hard to pronounce last names.

Does it really matter, REALLY, as long as our children are polite and courteous and taught to respect others?


My view sounds pretty much like yours. I never forced it upon my kids to call people "Mr. or Mrs. so and so" because I was never taught that way (also for the other reasons you state like we homeschool, etc.). It was only until we started going to a Christian homeschool group (years ago, not anymore) that I'd ever heard adults insist they be called that way by the children in the group. It felt forced and false to my ears because I am "Laura", not "Mrs. N" or "Miss Laura" or whatever!
I do like to be called that NOW (if it is their parents wish) "Mrs. N..." sounds so cute coming from some friends of ours and some other people that make their kids do that, but it still feels silly to me to insist my kids call people by their formal address (again, because I wasn't raised that way). My hubs doesn't care at all and his name is "Butch". Auntie and Uncle are absolutely enforced because that's who we are in this family but Mr. and Mrs.? Naw! As long as the kids know that adults are to be respected, I really don't think it matters.


Personally, it doesn't matter much to me what a child calls me, so long as it seems reasonably respectful and all. I grew up in CA, and I never was taught to call anyone by Mr./Mrs. except for teachers. My parents friends were always introduced by their first names. That being said though, I do sometimes feel uncomfortable with the first name thing - like today at the park a mom asked me my name and I told her, then she told it to her 2 yr old daughter and prompted her to ask me, using my first name, if she could share our sand toys. That seemed kind of odd.

I would rather my children use Mr./Mrs., at least with adults that they don't know well... the problem is that I seldom know those people's last names so I don't know how to introduce them to my kids. And I also seldom know a person's preference in advance, so it just ends up being rather awkward. I'm not sure why I like this better, but I guess it is because I'd rather err on the side of being perceived as more polite rather than too informal.

And about 90% of the time when adults do introduce themselves to my kids, they do so with their first name only. I think my daughter finds it a little weird though, because I've noticed that she doesn't use first names with adults, only the Mr./Mrs. names (if she knows them).

I loathe the Miss convention though! It makes me feel like I'm a 90 yr old southern spinster. I will never encourage my children to use that!

mom in baltimore

I'm Korean and in Korean culture, it's very offensive to call one's elder by their first name. I almost gagged when my Caucasian MIL and FIL told me to call them by their first names and it's still awkward for me. But I understand American culture is now much more casual and to insist on being called by the surname can make people feel as awkward as I feel doing the opposite. So I prefer the compromise of using Miss/Mr. with the first name. Also, many last names (like my married name) are very difficult to pronounce. We're not all of the Smith and Jones families. I think people would stop talking to me in order to avoid having to fumble with my last name!


BC (before children), I was teaching a class at an airforce base. One of the students, a woman, offered to take me out to see the sights of S. FL. She asked if I minded her bringing her kids. She had two DELIGHTFUL boys of 2 and 4. They were instructed to call me Miss Cathie. I insisted the Miss was not necessary. The mom insisted that it showed the due respect I was owed as an adult. I loved hearing these little boys in their southern drawl call me Miss Cathie all night. So strong was the impact it had on me, I told my husband that night on the phone how impressed I was with the boys and the mom. We decided to use it with our kids. Before we joined the parish of which Erin speaks, my kids used Miss or Mr. first name. Now, we use the last name because that is what most of their friends use. We like it. Now if an adult insists on being called by their first name, I ask my kids to use the Miss or Mr. first name instead. It certainly was not the way I was raised, but it does instill a show of respect that I think is missing in our society.


I had another thought about this in light of Neufeld's work on attachment and the peer culture.

I wonder...wonder...was the 'formal' title habit we used to have (and many more traditional cultures still have) a kind of signal to children about where in the structure/hierarchythey fit with relationship to adults?

We see it in terms of unnecessary formality, but when we flip some of these traditions around, sometimes I suspect that they serve(d) a cultural purpose regarding ordering society, and orienting children and adults rightly.

I wonder if the loss of the title is one more piece of the peer mentality that has forgotten that children should be oriented towards adults, and instead sees adults as just another set of 'peers.'

Am I over thinking this maybe?


We're close friends with a large extended family in which there are four or five Mrs. Ks. We use Miss____ or Mr. ___ to differentiate. (This family is like family to us, but there's no point in saying Aunt or Uncle since each adult is aunt or uncle so many other children.)

With other adults we use Miss____ or Mrs. (last name) interchangably. Perhaps it helps that when we speak of other adults to the kids, we use honorifics, so they're used to it. (My mother is from the deep south, so Miss___ is a very familiar construction to me.)

I don't mind whether children call me Miss First Name or Mrs. Last Name, but I don't prefer to be called just by my first name by young children. It's just a bit too casual.


I have to admit, it makes my skin crawl whenever a child calls me by my first name. My parents are sticklers for Mr. & Mrs, and it stuck with me.

When I meet someone (and only know their first name), before I introduce my children to them I ask, "Excuse me, but what is your last name?" When they tell me I turn to my children and say "So-and-so, this is Mrs. X."

I usually get surprised looks, but most people seem to be pleased. If they insist on first names, then it's "MISS X."


I'm a Texan who grew up with the Mr./Mrs. First Name thing. The only problem? I'm now nearly 24 years old and married but it's still difficult for me to address family friends-- both ones from childhood and newer ones-- with their first name only. My husband has the same problem. I guess it just takes some practice?

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